The thought of starting college can be scary, as life suddenly changes and you’re thrown into a new world. As you begin your college career at the University of Utah, the writers from the Arts Desk want to pass along a few words of wisdom to help you navigate this new chapter — advice our younger selves would have appreciated. Reflecting on our time at the U, we’re wishing you the best of luck as you embark on your college journey.
Welcome to college, incoming freshmen. The world is at your feet — the experiences and opportunities you’ll have in the next four years are endless. That being said, it can be easy to feel lost and unsure. As I look back at my time in college, freshman year stands out the most. I remember coming to the U as an eager freshman, planning to double major and minor in fields I thought I loved. It took all of three weeks to realize my plan wasn’t going to happen. I instantly felt lost and as if I had failed already. My advice is it’s hard to know what you want to do in life after graduating from high school, so be open and flexible to change. If you come into college with a plan, be open to the possibility of that plan changing, and it’s okay if it does. On the other hand, if you have no idea what you want to do, that’s okay too.
Use your freshman year to explore a variety of gen ed classes. Discover the fields you like and the ones you don’t. Don’t be afraid to take classes in a field you might be interested in — you never know what you may learn. It took me all of two years to finally find a major I love — one that combined my interests and passions. Take the time to figure out who you are and where your passions lie and never think it’s too late to change — that’s what college is about.
New experiences can certainly be daunting and even nerve-racking at times, and college is no exception. In fact, college can be a particularly stress-inducing experience — but only if you let it. Going into college, if you have your priorities straight and know generally what you want to get out of your experience, you’ll fare just fine. At the same time, don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out going into your freshman year or even by the end of it. The college experience should be enjoyed, not constantly mulled over and worried about.
College has a lot to offer academically and socially. My advice is to take advantage of it all — go to school events, join a club or two, and utilize highly beneficial resources like the Marriott Library and the Student Life Center. Engage in class, talk to your professors and make use of course materials. View college as an opportunity to become an all-around stronger, smarter and better person, rather than “I have to go to get a degree.” Keep in mind that you’re paying tens of thousands of dollars to be here — might as well make the most of it.
From my time at the U, my advice for students — whether they’re in their first year or their final year — is to try something new. For me, getting out of my comfort zone, while scary, has provided me with some of my favorite memories and my best friends. I never would have imagined joining Greek life, becoming a student journalist or going on a study abroad trip with people I had never met before, but these moments have defined my time at the U. Whether it’s something small like going to a play on campus or something larger like switching your major three times, following your heart while expanding your comfort zone can provide a whole new world of opportunities.
My biggest piece of advice to incoming students is don’t limit yourself! It can be really overwhelming to come into university and meet tons of talented and smart people (like you) but don’t be afraid to follow weird and wonderful channels in the university that can connect you to what you really want to do. The opportunities for joining clubs, taking classes, meeting people, finding jobs and internships are endless. If you can’t find a path that suits you, you can bring new things into existence. So chart new paths and create new spaces — it’s the best time in your life for it.
As a transfer student to the U, I’ve been able to experience a pretty unique perspective on this school, as contrasted against my experiences at BYU and UVU. What I’ve learned most about the U throughout my time in the Anthropology and Environmental & Sustainability Studies programs is just how many specialized professors we have here with really exciting areas of research. I would argue that no school in Utah has an Anthropology program with as much current research as ours does and no school has a Sustainability department quite as involved as ours is in current environmental activism. The U has a myriad of classes available, ranging from low workload and conversation-focused to challenging and research-focused in studying both human nature and our interactions with the environment. I would highly recommend Anthropology and ENVST to any incoming freshmen or even current students looking for a double major.
My advice is don’t worry too much. Always do what you can with classes and work with extracurriculars — but be patient with yourself. It is totally okay to be imperfect. If you can get your homework done early and spend the rest of the week studying and relaxing, that’s great. But if that doesn’t happen, take a breath. You’ve got this. Grades are important, but it is just as important to take time for yourself and enjoy life. You’ll probably have the university experience once in your life, so make it good. As long as you are doing your best, you have nothing to worry about.